Homelessness in America
Homeless is an issue in the United States that many people attempt to ignore. In Chicago, is is estimated that 21,000 individuals are homeless and living on the street each night, faced daily with one question: What do I do next? Too frequently, homelessness is blamed on laziness, but this is rarely the case. Homelessness has many underlying causes, and once an individual or a family finds themselves living on the streets or faces the threat of living on the streets, it becomes increasingly difficult to get attain self-reliance. Most homelessness is caused by:
- Poverty: It is no secret that individuals working part-time, making minimum wage, or who are underemployed risk homelessness. In many instances, individuals face challenges finding gainful and stable employment as a result of lack of proper training, access to resources and opportunities, or lack of direction. Without access to gainful and stable employment, many individuals and families face the risk of living on the streets.
- Addiction: Homelessness many times is the result of addiction. Many Americans do not realize that addiction is a disease that needs to be addressed.
- Mental Illness: Many individuals suffering from mental illness do not have access to proper mental health attention, which causes their health to actively affect their ability to maintain employment, families, or the ability to function meaningfully in society. For many of these individuals, the streets are they only place they can turn to, which further allows their mental illness to isolate these individuals from society.
The unfortunate reality is that the majority of Americans would rather ignore those who are facing homelessness and deny the causes of homelessness, rather than find a compassionate way of confronting, addressing, and eliminating homelessness once and for all. Many employers are unwilling to hire individuals who have been living on the streets. Many individuals or families who have faced homelessness have difficulties finding proper resources and opportunities to bring them towards self-reliance. When the homeless ask for help, the natural reaction from most Americans is to just ignore homelessness and pretend it does not exist. Many individuals and families living on the streets face mental and physical illnesses, which makes it even easier for them to get turned down for employment and other opportunities.
These are certainly not ways to address and eliminate homelessness, but rather enable homelessness to continue.
Breakthrough Urban Ministries: What We Do
Breakthrough Urban Ministries is a Christian non-profit organization dedicated to providing immediate and long-term services and opportunities to individuals and families facing homelessness and poverty, with the aim of eradicating poverty and creating self-reliance within the community. Breakthrough began humbly in 1992, consisting of a handful of members of the church who wanted to provide food and some amenities to the homeless. Since then, Breakthrough has expanded to a thriving organization that offers multiple programs to help individuals and families overcome poverty and homelessness, transitioning from being reliant to self-reliant.
Breakthrough Urban Ministries has created its organization on Eight Core Values:
- Racial Justice
We believe that by incorporating these eight values into our actions, we will truly be able to address the root of poverty and homelessness and create effective and lasting solutions to helping individuals and families to the path of self-reliance.
Individuals and families requiring support from Breakthrough are given both immediate support and amenities, followed up with support suited to the needs of that individual or family. When individuals first approach Breakthrough, they will be offered:
- Food: Staff members provide three meals per day for those using the services of Breakthrough.
- Toiletries: Basic toiletries, such as tooth brushes, tooth paste, soap, and deodorant, are essential for proper hygiene and maintaining health.
- Access to showers and laundry facilities.
- Clothes: Many homeless individuals do not have access to proper clothing (i.e. winter coats, warm socks, sweaters, etc.) which could cause further health and hygiene issues. We offer appropriate clothing for all individuals in all situations.
Once admitted into the program, individuals and families will have the opportunity to receive a multitude of support and have access to multiple services based on their specific needs. Because homelessness and severe poverty is the result of a multitude of problems, not all homelessness can be directed in the same way. As a means of finding effective solutions to homelessness, individuals and families have the opportunities and access to:
- On-site physical medical attention.
- On-site mental health attention and evaluation.
- Interim housing opportunities.
- Housing placement and assistance.
- Employment training.
- Networking opportunities.
- Youth programs.
- Food services.
At Breakthrough, we address the underlying problems behind homelessness and find effective solutions to prevent homelessness for those individuals and families in the future. Offering food and temporary shelter may be fine in the moment, but in the long term it does not end the problem, which is why we offer a wide variety of support, services, and opportunities.
Finding gainful employment is likely the most difficult challenge that those who face homelessness have to overcome. For many homeless individuals, they may have not been offered previous experience with employment training, which makes finding a job difficult. Our trained professionals take the time to pin point individual’s skills and help them through basic employment training, practice interviews, and provide proper professional clothing for future interviews. Additionally, Breakthrough has many network connections to employers so that we may provide referrals for individuals who excel and meet a particular criteria. For employers looking to create a meaningful network connection with Breakthrough, please Contact us further for details.
Who does severe poverty and homelessness most affect?
Our youth programs are developed to address the harsh realities that youth of all ages and stages in life face due to severe poverty and homelessness. We provide a variety of year long sports leagues, academic programs, and mentor programs that youth can partake in to have a stable and positive influence from caring adults who will provide them with opportunities, academic enrichment, and spiritual development. OUr programs are developed and created to assure that youth are capable of creating trusting and lasting connections to adults and grow to their full potential through our Network Model. Please read further about the Youth Programs we offer and learn what services and opportunities youth can receive with Breakthrough.
Want to learn further how you can get more involved in youth programs through Breakthrough? We are always looking for Volunteers to tutor, coach or mentor in our youth programs. Want to be involved more permanently? Check out our Internship opportunities and Employment openings.
Want to Get More Involved?
We understand that people have busy lives and cannot always commit to a regular volunteer program or an internship. That’s okay! We have other ways you can get involved!
- We are always in need of items to stock our shelves and cabinets. Check out our Wishlist and see what items you can donate today.
- Keep up to date with all our Media coverage and how you can help.
- Are you putting together a Will or looking for a beneficiary? Learn how you can Support us in the long term.
- Check out all our Volunteer opportunities and see if you can help out with any of our great programs.